By Karl Doege….
The last post commented on the “person of the covenant” as set forth in the Sacrament of Baptism liturgy. It was stated that all baptized Christians are Persons of the Covenant, and that their behavior and priorities are governed, ideally, by the promises made at the time of baptism. Among the priorities named in the Baptismal Covenant are “fighting against the forces of evil,” and “following and obeying Jesus as Lord.”
The present post will set forth the implications of Eucharist in the life of a “person of the covenant.”
The term “Eucharist” is taken from a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving.” At his final meal with his disciples, Jesus, taking bread and wine, blessed and gave thanks for the bread and wine. He distributed these “creatures” to his disciples, instructing them to “do this in remembrance of me.” (Not unimportantly, Jesus also told his disciples that his body and his blood were present in the bread and wine.) Accordingly, when the priest, who in any sacrament represents the “persons of the covenant” (and even those not of the covenant) who are present, he/she is doing as Jesus wishes, i.e., blessing and giving thanks for the elements, and for the presence of Jesus (in some fashion) within the elements. The priest then distributes the bread and the wine to those who wish to partake of them. Thus, all who participate in this Eucharist participate in a service of thanksgiving according to Jesus’ instruction.
Mostly, we all know about this – at least everyone who is reading this is quite familiar with most or all of the above. The point to be emphasized here is the role of thanksgiving in the Eucharistic liturgy, and implications of thanksgiving for stewardship. So, as this is being written, a short study of the verbiage of the “Eucharistic Prayers” in the Book of Common Prayer is taking place in order to find language therein concerning what we ordinarily think of as “stewardship.” What does our Eucharistic liturgy say about why we should be thankful and how we must show our gratitude.
In Eucharistic Prayer A, (p.363), we ask that God would make us holy (“sanctify us”) so that we may “serve you in unity, constancy and peace.” (I interpret this to mean that it is our prayer to learn to live into our baptismal covenant.) But mostly Prayer A seems to be about atonement. I’d rather move along.
In Prayer B, (p.368), we give thanks for God’s blessings, namely, God’s “goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets;” – (referring to Jesus). (Note the capital “W” in “Word.”)] We also read, “. . . you have brought us out of error into truth, . . . out of death into life.” (These words have deep, symbolic meaning.)
In Prayer C, (p.370), we acknowledge God as Creator and remember how God has “blessed us with memory, reason and skill.” We thank God for the blessing God gave us in the person of Jesus. We ask that God “open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us.” We ask for solace and strength, for pardon and renewal. We ask that our community of faith might be as “one body, one Spirit in Christ.” We note that our grateful response to the fulfillment of our prayers must be “that we might worthily serve the world in [Christ’s] name.”
Prayer D, (p.372), addresses God as “Fountain of life and source of all goodness,” who made all things and filled them with blessing so that they might rejoice in the splendor of God’s radiance. We acclaim God’s wisdom and love, our being that is formed in God’s image, our role as stewards of God’s creation, God’s guiding love – even in spite of our waywardness. We thank God for guidance into wholeness by the words of the prophets. We praise God for the role model of Jesus (which we are to follow) who proclaimed the good news of our own healing, freedom to prisoners, joy to the sorrowful. We note that our response to all these great blessings must be our own resurrected and victorious lives. (The Prayer Book says it this way: “. . . and rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new.” (p.374)
So all of the Eucharistic Prayers emphasize a grand view of the many blessings we have received from God – for which we give thanks in response.
The Eucharist is not yet done: not until we give our verbal response to the reception of the bread and the wine. We say: “Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (p.365) Or, “. . .send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.” (p.366) Eucharist has renewed us with strength to continue to live into our role as “persons of the covenant.”
Eucharistic liturgy is the way we enumerate our blessings and indicate to ourselves and to God the manner in which we will respond to them in gratitude. That’s the point of it all.
Through this sacrament we receive strength and renewal to love and serve: to be good and faithful stewards. Through this sacrament, we acknowledge that the bread and the wine are not just for us alone but, through us, they are for all of God’s creation.
Eucharist is a reminder that we are to be Good Stewards of all that God has given us, and that we must participate in God’s work in the world – because we are baptized and we are thankful.
Indeed, we are Persons of the Covenant!